Ghosts of the Gatehouse Pub

Gatehouse Pub in Highgate

JON KANEKO-JAMES probes the haunted past of the Gatehouse Pub in Highgate, North London

Old places are generally steeped in strangeness. There’s a certain eerie starkness to hyper-modern buildings, too, but old places give me that telltale feeling of comfortable strangeness, as if the weight of years is pressing down on me. The Gatehouse Pub in Highgate is one of those places.

And the Gatehouse is genuinely old. It’s first mentioned in the parish records of St. Pancras, after having long been one of the entrances to the Bishop of Ely’s estate outside London. It’s a place that has seen violence in the early 1500s when the Vicar of St. Pancras and his parishioners attacked the home of the Hermit of St. Michaels within Highgate and forced him to hide in the steeple of his Hermitage.

It’s seen murder when one of the Brides in the Bath Murderer’s victims, Margaret Elizabeth Lloyd, was found dead on nearby Waterlow Road. The place was extensively remodelled at the turn of the century and given a mock-Tudor feel, ironic since local lore says there has been an ale house there since the 14th Century, and documentary evidence confirms that it was there and relatively established in 1670. Inside is friendly… but it has that certain something, that slight flash of teeth that suggests it wouldn’t be a place to be alone on a winter’s night, especially not just before Halloween when the spirits are about.

One former landlord quit his tenancy after seeing something of ‘horrible appearance’ coalescing in the upstairs room, now a theatre. Barstaff have long complained of poltergeist activity and strange suffocation attacks by an unseen force. One customer was even attacked by an unseen assailant in 1966, being suffocated until his vision began to dim, only to find the attack fading as soon as it had started.

Author: Jon Kaneko-James

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